TIP: calls for rolling infrastructure fund, spotlight back on responsible lending, defect inquiry

Infrastructure Australia warns city dwellers facing intolerable gridlock


Infrastructure Australia released its first report since 2015 yesterday. It says that the $200bn set aside for major infrastructure projects across Australia over the next five years should become a regular thing, if our cities - Sydney and Melbourne in particular - aren't to become giant parking lots.


The report says projects currently underway in Australia's two big cities will not be enough to stop Sydney and Melbourne becoming paralysed by congestion by 2031. Over that time, it has tipped the productivity cost of gridlock to be close to $40bn; cost of overcrowding on public transport alone will be nearly $900m.


Anyone involved in greenfield development on the outer fringes of these cities should take note of the report's advice that we should be focusing more of these energies into building up inner-city services. Which seems to fly in the face of everything else we've been told about managing population growth by the likes of the Greater Sydney Commission, for example.


Responsible lending criteria an ongoing issue for banks


I know a few property sales types who would dispute this next bit utterly: CBA told ASIC's hearing on responsible lending yesterday that the slide in its lending business wasn't caused by the credit crunch and increased competition from second-tier lenders, but by low consumer demand.


A little over a kilometre away from this hearing in Sydney, "Aussie" John Symonds and ANZ chief Shayne Elliott were telling a pow-wow of mortgage brokers that the crackdown on lending and resulting uncertainty around who it is okay to lend the folding stuff to, is the single biggest threat to a housing recovery.


This uncertainty has caused a level of paralysis that has resulted in reduced credit availability for aspirant home buyers. To see CBA suggest that the tail is wagging the dog on this, and it's lack of consumer interest leading to reduction of big bank loan books, is certainly an interesting perspective in light of what we know about the gap between buyer intentions and abilities.


Speaking of CBA, the bank is reportedly moving to divest a variety of assets it has built up over the years - including Aussie Home Loans. Founder, John Symonds - who really kicked off the mortgage broking sector in Australia when he launched AHL - told the gathering yesterday he's considering buying back in.


Tears and fears at NSW building standards inquiry


I'd probably be crying too if I had to live what Mascot Towers apartment owner, Vijay Vital described at the NSW building standards inquiry yesterday. Building certifiers were the villains of the day, as was the NSW Department of Fair Trading which is being criticised for not moving fast enough on plans to audit 25-30 per cent of the state's 600 private building certifiers.


One such certifier is Lyall Dix, who won't be happy with today's Sydney Morning Herald. He's been dragged across tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper as the state's most fined private building certifier, and presented as the poster child of a broken system.


Mr Vital told the inquiry that if you own an apartment with structural cracks, "no insurer in the world will touch you." We know the same is true for buildings with cladding issues. Mr Vital's tearful testimony was presented in today's reporting as a "buyer beware" warning in a legislative environment where everyone except the purchaser of apartments is protected in the event of building issues.